Jack Wilshere, Koke and Ilkay Gundogan Reportedly Targeted by Barcelona

Christopher AtkinsContributor IOctober 22, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 19:  Jack Wilshere of Arsenal celebrates as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Norwich City at the Emirates Stadium on October 19, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Barcelona have identified Jack Wilshere, Koke and Ilkay Gundogan as potential long-term replacements for the club's current star duo of Xavi and Iniesta, according to Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo.

Per the Daily Star's Nick Lustig, the Spanish media outlet reports that the trio have been picked out by the Camp Nou side as three players of great interest as Barcelona seek to find replacements for their ageing stars of recent years.

Lustig reports:

According Mundo Deportivo, Wilshere is regarded as one of their top targets and impressed Barcelona scouts during trips over to England to tie up deals for former Gunners Alex Song and Cesc Fabregas...

Atletico Madrid star Koke, who has been compared to Xavi, is also in the Spanish side's sights...

Ilkay Gundogan, currently of Borussia Dortmund and a target of both Arsenal and United, is the third and final player being watched by Barca.

Interest in the trio will, of course, come as little surprise, with all three players regarded among the best young talents in European football.

Wilshere played one of his finest games as a professional player against the Blaugrana in 2011, while Gundogan was one of the standout Dortmund players in the side that reached the Champions League final last campaign.

Koke, for his part, has been enjoying a wonderful start to the current season off the back of helping Spain to the Under-21 European Championship title this summer.

With six assists to his name this season, the versatile midfielder is top of the assist charts in La Liga this campaign, per WhoScored, and has forced himself into the late reckoning for a place in Vicente del Bosque's squad for next summer's World Cup.

While the need to replace Xavi and Iniesta is not desperate, with Cesc Fabregas in fine form and Sergi Roberto pushing his way into the first-team setup, the duo are now 33 and 29 respectively.

Atletico Madrid's Koke
Atletico Madrid's Koke/Getty Images

However, Thiago Alcantara's exit for Bayern Munich this summer has disrupted the club's long-term plans of succession, and a midfielder is now seen as a requirement.

Lustig reports that the Catalans are eyeing January moves for the trio, although it must be remembered that all three will be cup-tied in this season's Champions League and will be hard to pry away from their respective clubs.

The article suggests Gundogan is looking to run down his contract at Dortmund, which could make him a possibility for a summer move, while Koke's much publicised €16 million release clause is also attracting attention from Manchester United.

Given Wilshere's status at Arsenal, he would undoubtedly be the toughest to lure away, but Barcelona have a history of enticing players from the Emirates Stadium and may attempt to use that existing relationship with the Gunners to their advantage.

The current generation will not go on forever and, with some doubts remaining over the group currently emerging, any of the three named would undoubtedly be a major step toward ensuring continued success.